Wait times for treatment climb to 20.9 weeks across Canada

Surgical wait times climb

Surgical wait times in Canada eclipsed 20 weeks in 2019.

The median wait time for medically necessary treatment was 20.9 weeks, according to a new study by the Fraser Institute.

That's second-longest wait recorded since the public policy think-tank began measuring wait times in 1993. Back then, the median wait time was just 9.3 weeks.

“Across Canada, patients continue to wait for more than four months for medically necessary treatment – a fact that should concern not just patients and their families but also policymakers in Ottawa and across the country,” said Bacchus Barua, associate director of health policy studies at the Fraser Institute.

The study examined wait times across 12 medical specialties – from referral by a general practitioner to consultation with a specialist, to when the patient ultimately receives treatment.

Among the provinces, Ontario had the shortest median wait time this year at 16.0 weeks, and Prince Edward Island recorded the longest wait time (49.3 weeks). B.C.'s wait time was 24 weeks, up one week from a year ago.

Nationally, wait times were longest for orthopedic surgery (39.1 weeks) and plastic surgery (28.7 weeks) and were the shortest for medical oncology (4.4 weeks).

“Long wait times for medically necessary treatments increase suffering for patients, decrease quality of life, and in the worst cases, lead to disability or death,” Barua said.

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